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Greece

Background
Greece offers a great variety of attractions for the international traveller. A beautiful climate linked with great beaches, a vibrant nightlife and historical monuments to rival any other location throughout the world. All of this located
within western Europe and a short flight away from many of the cooler northern destinations - like Ireland. Travellers from these regions descent on Greece in very significant numbers each year and for the vast majority of them they will have a splendid and healthy time. However for some this may not be the case and serious illness and accidents are regularly reported. Following some commonsense rules would go a long way to avoiding disaster and ensuring that this trip is truly one to be remembered for all the right reasons.
Climate
Situated in southern Europe the country enjoys mild winters but very hot summers. There may be occasional cool breezes (meltemia) but these can serve only to fool the traveller into thinking that they are unlikely to burn. Rain is very uncommon during the height of summer (July and August) and all travellers should be advised to use very adequate sun-block lotion at all times.
Slip, Slop, Slap
Following the Australian mantra of Slip, Slop and Slap makes perfect sense. Slip on a shirt, slop on sunscreen and slap on a hat when out and about during the day and this should help protect against the intense suns rays. Nevertheless, despite all their best intentions, travellers get burnt. This is particularly a problem in the first few days after their arrival when they do not realise the intensity of the suns rays and how easily they can be exposed. Falling asleep beside the hotel's swimming pool or on the beach is a very common problem and must be avoided against. The tips of the ears, shoulders (especially along the bra-strap line, ankles and behind the knees are commonly exposed and forgotten areas.
After Sun care
To treat significant sunburn it is important to increase fluid intake but also to take extra salt on your food (unless medically contraindicated for some specific condition like high blood pressure etc). Soothing water soluble lotions (especially ones containing a mild anaesthetic and/or steroid cream) are probably best but certainly avoid any of the ones which paste the skin with a thick layer - which is almost impossible to remove without causing serious pain! The more severe sunburn cases may need medical care and even hospitalisation which really ruins a holiday.
Food & Water
As a European destination Greece has a good level of food and water hygiene. Unfortunately this can vary - especially as you move away from the main tourist destinations and also as the summer temperatures rise and food goes 'off' more quickly. Eating hot food, avoiding cold foods (side-salads, lettuce etc) and never eating undercooked bivalve shellfish (mussels, oysters, clams etc) makes perfect sense. Eating food or taking fruit juice drinks from street vendors is a risk just not worth taking.
Insect bites
There may be both mosquitoes and sandflys about so having good repellents (DEET based ones) is worthwhile. The biggest problem will be early in the morning and towards the end of the daylight hours. However sitting in the shade while having lunch may be nice and cool but it is also often a place where these insects tend to hover looking for their next meal. Just don't allow that meal to be the blood in your unguarded ankle!
Seeing the Monuments
As mentioned previously Greece is covered with ancient monuments and these attract many thousands of tourists each year. The ruins are often not the most hospitable places for sun-sensitive tourists so taking care against the suns rays is essential - especially while standing carefully listening to the tour guide explain some complicated piece of history while the back of your legs get roasted! The other issue, for those trekking through the ruins, is the distinct possibility of a nasty twisted ankle.
Laser Night shows
Many of the ancient sites have beautiful night shows which depict something of the past splendour and are definitely worth seeing. However it is wise to wear good shoes as stumbling across loose stones is a particular problem at night and also bring a small torch, if possible, to guide your way. Getting separated from your travelling companions, or not being able to find your return bus, can lead to some understandable panic so listen carefully to any instructions and look out for some land marks before you get too far away into the night time crowd.
Animal bites
Some tourists may forget that rabies is a problem in many countries throughout the world and, even though Greece is regarded as rabies-free', there is always a problem if someone should get bitten. The possibility that this animal could have been recently smuggled into the country cannot be out ruled and so many would advise full post exposure treatment should this contact occur. Children may be at particular risk due to their inquisitive nature.
Swimming
Sunburn and swimming go hand in hand but drowning can also occur all too frequently within this region. Strong currents, swimming after meals (or alcohol) and the ever popular romantic midnight swim are all serious risk factors. Also children running around the deep end of the pool may lose their footing and topple in without warning. Unfortunately a very small child sinks instantly with very little sign of the emergency to those close by. Parents need to keep aware of this risk at all times.
The summer working holiday
Many of our students head towards Greece for 2 to 3 months during the summer to work. The attractions are obvious but commonsense and sensible life-style choices are needed throughout their stay to lessen the risk of illness or them returning home with an infection they had not bargained for. Unfortunately many return home with life-long illnesses which have been contracted from a single unprotected sexual contact.
Vaccinations for Greece
As a general rule the usual travel vaccines are not recommended for most short-term travellers to this region. However for the student planning to spend a more prolonged period it would be sensible to consider cover against both Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B and also to check that their Tetanus cover is up-to-date.
Summary
This is still one of the most popular destinations for northern European travellers and, in the vast majority of cases, they will have a fantastic time with only good memories. Unfortunately some less prepared folks will end up with serious sunburn and other illnesses or diseases which perhaps are frequently associated with their own lack of care and protection rather than anything specific to this beautiful country.

Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS

Date: Sat, 2 May 2020 17:14:39 +0200 (METDST)

Athens, May 2, 2020 (AFP) - A 6.0 magnitude quake struck off the Greek island of Crete on Saturday but there were no immediate reports of casualties or damage.   The Athens Geodynamic Institute said the epicentre was about 55 kilometres (35 miles) south of the city of Ierapetra. It hit at 1251 GMT (15:51 pm).   "No victims or serious damage has been reported so far," a local police officer told AFP by telephone.

Tremors were felt across the island and landslides were reported on some roads in Lasithi, where Ierapetra is located, the fire service said.    "Luckily the quake happened at a depth of 19 kilometres in the sea and there has not been any serious damage so far," said Giorgos Aspadrakis, the head of the fire brigade in Lasithi.   "The quake went on for a long time," said Georgia Santamouri, 29, who lives at Heraklion -- almost 100 km from Ierapetra.   "I was in bed. I was really scared in the beginning and I couldn't move initially but then I ran out," she said.

Greece is prone to earthquakes, with many occurring offshore.   The last deadly quake occurred on the island of Kos in the Aegean Sea in July 2017. The 6.7-magnitude quake killed two people.   The deadliest temblor in recent years struck the Athens region in 1999, killing 143 people.
Date: Thu, 23 Apr 2020 12:20:54 +0200 (METDST)

Athens, April 23, 2020 (AFP) - Greece is extending coronavirus lockdown measures by a week to May 4, the government said Thursday.   The country has managed to keep fatalities at a low level after registering its first virus death on March 12, despite a decade of cuts imposed on its public health system during the post-2010 debt crisis.

Supermarkets, banks and food delivery restaurants are among the few businesses still operating, and Greeks must inform authorities when leaving their homes for necessities, or risk fines.   "Restrictive measures that apply until April 27 are extended by a week to May 4," government spokesman Stelios Petsas told reporters.

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis next week will be announcing steps to remove some of the nationwide lockdown measures imposed on March 22, Petsas added.   The relaxation of the restrictions is set to begin with a partial reopening of courts and land registers on April 27.   The education ministry has also announced plans for final-year school pupils to hold university entry exams in June.   Greece has so far officially announced 121 deaths, with 55 people still in intensive care.
Date: Tue, 7 Apr 2020 12:55:32 +0200 (METDST)

Athens, April 7, 2020 (AFP) - Hundreds of Greek healthcare workers demonstrated on Tuesday to protest at working conditions and lack of manpower and equipment in public hospitals during the coronavirus pandemic.   The demonstrations were staged to coincide with World Health Day, according to the federation of hospital personnel.   "You only saw us when we covered our faces," proclaimed a poster printed by hospital trade unions, bearing a picture of doctors wearing anti-coronavirus masks.    Demonstrators at the large Evangelismos hospital in central Athens held up signs demanding job hiring, virus testing and hospital equipment.

Police tried to enter the hospital courtyard where the rally was taking place before being forced back by demonstrators, an AFP photographer said.   A similar protest was held at the main hospital in Larissa in central Greece, according to images from public television ERT.    Despina Tossonidou, president of the doctors' union at Voula hospital in southern Athens, said that in addition to the hiring of medical staff, intensive care units in private clinics should be requisitioned "to overcome the shortcomings of the public sector" during the virus crisis.   Health care in Greece was drastically affected by the country's 2010-2018 financial crisis and tough austerity required by creditors in exchange for bailouts.

As part of its measures to deal with the pandemic, the government has offered clinics 30 million euros ($32.6 million) and announced the hiring on short-term contracts of 2,000 doctors and 2,000 nursing staff.    "These measures are just a drop in the ocean," said Tossonidou, a radiologist.    "The hospital system needs 30,000 additional permanent doctors," she said, also citing the lack of protective equipment and COVID-19 testing in hospitals.    "The majority of tests are currently carried out in private hospitals at costs ranging from 150 to 300 euros ($163-326)," said Tossonidou.    Greece, a country of around 10.7 million people, has suffered relatively less than other European nations in the pandemic, recording 81 deaths out of 1,755 cases.
Date: Sun, 22 Mar 2020 18:02:51 +0100 (MET)

Athens, March 22, 2020 (AFP) - Greece will impose a nationwide lockdown to stem the spread of the coronavirus, limiting people to their homes except for essential outings, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said Sunday.    "I have given orders that all appropriate action be taken to enforce the ban on all unnecessary movement across the country," Mitsotakis said in a televised address to the nation.   The restrictions will come into force from 6:00 am local time (0400 GMT) on Monday, and will require citizens to carry proof of identity to leave their homes. 

Outings are only permitted for people "going to work, the doctor, or to visit someone who needs help, or those who are buying food or medication", the prime minister said.    Citizens are also permitted to leave the house to walk their pets or exercise outdoors alone or with one other person.

There are 15 recorded deaths and 624 infections from the coronavirus in Greece, which has a population of 11 million.    Since reporting its first death from the virus on March 12, the country has gradually rolled out measures to limit gatherings and non-essential travel along with closing schools, shops and entertainment venues.
Date: Sat, 21 Mar 2020 10:59:18 +0100 (MET)

Athens, March 21, 2020 (AFP) - A strong 5.6 magnitude earthquake struck early Saturday in northwest Greece, damaging property in the city of Parga, authorities said.   The quake struck at 0049 GMT (0249 local time), with the epicentre 11 kilometres (around six miles) from Parga in Kanalaki district, and 316 kilometres northwest of Athens, the Athens geodynamic observatory said.   "No casualties have been reported at the moment," Parga mayor Nikolas Zacharias told AFP by telephone.

"Some old abandoned houses in Kanalaki collapsed and some houses suffered significant damage in this district of 2,500 inhabitants," Zaharias said, adding the temblor was strong throughout the area.   Landslides partially damaged the region's roads, he added.   Greece lies on major fault lines and is regularly hit by earthquakes, but they rarely cause casualties.   In 2017, a 6.7-magnitude earthquake killed two people on the island of Kos in the Aegean sea, causing significant damage.   In 1999, a 5.9-magnitude quake left 143 people dead in Athens and the region northwest of the capital.
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Indonesia

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Information for Bali
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General
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Bali is one of the main tourist destinations for many Irish travellers to Indonesia. The island is well developed for the tourist industry and genera
ly the climate is tropical and humid throughout the year. Many Irish travellers will use the island as a stopover. If this is for only 24 to 28 hours the extent of your jetlag may leave you little time to enjoy the country and its people.
Safety & Security
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Throughout Indonesia there are many regions where it is unsafe to travel. The Parliament in Indonesia may impeach the President in the near future. Civil disturbance with student demonstrations in the capital Jakarta, earthquakes in the island of Sumatra, unrest regarding the independence of Timor and profound warring fractions on the island of Borneo has the potential to spill over into Bali. Nevertheless during the past years Bali has remained stable and there have been few reports of serious disturbances that have affected tourists or business travellers. Lombok is an island close to Bali often visited by tourists. It is regarded as more unstable and recently (Dec 2000) four explosions during fighting between two villages (Bongor & Parampuan). The main tourist region around Senggigi has remained quiet.

Local Customs
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The laws against illegal drugs are severe and travellers should ensure that they carry sufficient well-marked medication that they may require for their time in Indonesia. Travellers are required to show identification at any time and so carrying photocopies of your passport is a wise precaution. Keep all valuable documents in a safe place and do not flaunt personal wealth while travelling around the island.
Night Activities
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The nightlife in Bali is one of the main attractions for many tourists but sensible precautions are required. Travelling alone is unwise. Take care to ensure that your drink could not be spiked at any stage and do not walk at night, use an authorised taxi where possible. The level of HIV infection among the bar workers is high and close personal contact is very unwise.
Medical Facilities
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The level of available health facilities varies greatly through Bali and other parts of Indonesia. In general most of the main hotels will have English speaking doctors but care would be required if your illness requires hospitalisation.
Food and Water
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It is wise to maintain a high level of care with regard to your food and water while in Indonesia. This includes even those in high quality hotels but also particularly for those eating from street vendors. Bivalve shellfish (e.g. oysters, mussels, clams etc) should be avoided at all times due to inadequate cooking. Bottled water should be purchased from your hotel or good quality shops to ensure that it is pure.
Mosquitoes and Insect Bites
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Malaria transmission occurs throughout Indonesia all year but the risk in Bali is so low that prophylaxis is not generally recommended for most tourists. Nevertheless for those visiting Lombok (overnight visits) the risk exists and prophylaxis should be considered. Other mosquito borne diseases also occur throughout Indonesia and care must be taken to avoid insect bites. In Jakarta and other main cities there is a particular problem with a viral disease called Dengue Fever. The mosquito, which transmits this disease, typically bites during the day and in main urban centres.
Sun Exposure
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The strength of the sun in Bali is considerable higher than that experienced in Ireland at any time of the year. Sufficient head covering should be worm when exposed and travellers should ensure that their fluid intake is sufficient. Salt depletion also needs to be replaced in times of significant perspiration.
Swimming
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If swimming in pools, make sure that sufficient chlorination has been used. Take care with small children when close to the deep end of the pool. If sea swimming make sure that there are always others around and that you heed any local advice and warning signs. Never swim soon after alcohol or for an hour after mealtime.
Jet Lag
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The extent of jet lag, which you will experience, depends on the duration of your flight and the amount of rest you were able to get before arrival. Try to rest for the first 24 hours to allow your body to acclimatise and make sure you do not fall asleep beside the swimming pool during this initial period.
Vaccinations for Bali
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There are no essential vaccines or entry to Bali from Western Europe. However for your personal protection travellers are recommended to consider vaccination cover against;
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Poliomyelitis (childhood booster)
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Tetanus (childhood booster)
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Typhoid (food & water disease)
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Hepatitis A (food & water disease)
Other travellers planning a more rural or extensive trip may need to consider other vaccine cover against diseases like Hepatitis B, Japanese B Encephalitis, Rabies.
Summary
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The majority of those visiting Bali will enjoy the many tourist attractions on the island. However commonsense and care is required to ensure that you do not expose yourself to unnecessary risk. The staff of the Tropical Medical Bureau can be contacted at either of the numbers below if you require further information.

Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS

Date: Wed, 6 May 2020 18:33:44 +0200 (METDST)

Jakarta, May 6, 2020 (AFP) - A 6.8 magnitude earthquake jolted a remote part of eastern Indonesia late Wednesday, the United States Geological Survey said, but there was no tsunami warning issued and no immediate reports of damage.    The undersea quake struck at a depth of some 107 kilometres (66 miles) in the sea between Indonesia's Maluku and East Timor at 22:50 local time (13:50 GMT).   The epicentre was about 390 kilometres south of the city of Ambon in the archipelago's Maluku province.   "We have not received any reports of damages so far as a result of the quake. The result of our modeling also shows that the earthquake did not trigger any potential tsunami," said Taufan Maulana, the spokesman of Indonesia's weather and geophysics bureau.

The bureau further reported that the tremors were strongly felt by people on nearby small islands, as well as those in some cities in Papua, the easternmost province of Indonesia.   Researcher Fawwaz Rifasya told AFP that he was on the fourth floor of a hotel in Manokwari, Papua, when he felt the building swaying.   Meanwhile, Andika Baskoro in Merauke, Papua, said that he noticed the quake after he saw hanging lamps and water in a gallon swaying.   An AFP journalist in Dili, East Timor, roughly 400 kilometres away, reported feeling a slight tremor.    Indonesia is one of the most disaster-prone nations on Earth. In 2018, a 7.5-magnitude quake and a subsequent tsunami in Palu on Sulawesi island left more than 4,300 people dead or missing.
Date: Wed, 29 Apr 2020 09:54:33 +0200 (METDST)
By Agnes ANYA, Safrin Labatu

Jakarta, April 29, 2020 (AFP) - From shirtless soldiers to teens sun tanning on their parents' driveways, Indonesians are soaking up rays like never before in the hope that plentiful sunshine will ward off coronavirus.   The rush to take up a practice usually associated with Bali-bound foreigners has been driven by unfounded claims on social media that sunlight -- and the vitamin D it supplies -- can slow or kill the virus.

That hope got a boost last week when a senior US official said new research showed sunlight quickly destroys the virus. The study has yet to be evaluated independently, but US President Donald Trump spoke about it enthusiastically during a press conference.   "I always avoided the sun before because I didn't want to get tanned," said Theresia Rikke Astria, a 27-year-old housewife in Indonesia's cultural capital Yogyakarta.   "But I'm hoping this will strengthen my immune system," she added.

Medics have their doubts, but say a 15-minute burst of morning sunshine can be good for you.   "Exposing the body to direct sunlight is good to get vitamin D, not to directly prevent the disease," said Dr. Dirga Sakti Rambe at Jakarta's OMNI Pulomas Hospital.    Vitamin D, which comes from fish, eggs, milk and sunlight exposure, is important in maintaining a healthy immune system, he said, but added: "Sunbathing does not kill the virus that causes COVID-19."

Whatever the science, one thing is for sure: there is no shortage of sunshine in the tropical 5,000-kilometre- (3,100-mile-) long Southeast Asian archipelago.   The rush outdoors has led to an Indonesian government warning about the dangers of skin cancer, and calls for novice sun-seekers to slap on protection.   It was a rare caution in a place where sunbathing is not practised widely and beauty product commercials extol the virtues of fair skin.    Across Asia, pale skin has long been associated with a higher social class and skin-lightening products are big sellers.   Muslim majority Indonesia's relatively conservative dress codes -- especially for women -- mean skimpy swimwear isn't a feature of the new craze.

- 'Asian skin tone' -
But the pandemic has made a convert of Rio Zikrizal, even if he struggles with the idea of soaking his shirtless torso in the sun.   "In normal times I'd be reluctant to sunbathe," the Jakarta resident said.   "I've got an Asian skin tone which gets dark easily so I often use products to make my skin lighter."   Nabillah Ayu, who lives on the outskirts of the capital Jakarta, starts her newly adopted sunbathing routine around 10 am -- when she used to be in the office -- in the hopes of avoiding the deadly respiratory disease.   "Sunlight can't directly kill coronavirus, but it can boost the immune system and stop you from getting it," the 22-year-old said.   Bare-chested suntan sessions have been incorporated into morning exercise routines for some military and police units.

And in major cities, residents are flocking from neighbourhoods crammed with narrow, dark alleyways to open areas -- including commuter train tracks -- where they can catch some unobstructed rays.   It is a motley mix of women in head-covering hijabs with rolled up sleeves and pants, shirtless male teens and wrinkly pensioners all clamouring for a bit of sunshine as the odd train zips by.   "I've just started sunbathing regularly since the pandemic hit," Alfian, who goes by one name, told AFP near train tracks in Tangerang on the edge of Jakarta.   "Afterwards I take a shower and my body feels fitter."   Pensioner Wadianto Wadito, who suffers from heart disease and diabetes, figures he can use all the help he can get.   "I'm already taking a lot of medicines anyway, so now I'm sunbathing to get all my vitamins without taking more pills," the 65-year-old said.
Date: Thu, 23 Apr 2020 18:37:35 +0200 (METDST)

Jakarta, April 23, 2020 (AFP) - Indonesia will ban all air and sea travel until June, officials said Thursday, in an apparent effort to contain the spread of the coronavirus during the holiest period on the Islamic calendar.    The temporary ban takes effect Friday, the first day of the fasting month of Ramadan for the Muslim-majority country, and lasts until June 1.    It comes a day after the government, fearing an explosion in virus cases, banned the annual exodus for Eid al-Fitr, the holiday marking the end of Ramadan, when millions travel to their hometowns and ancestral villages.

The latest measure will not apply to emergency, diplomatic or cargo transport, the government said.    The repatriation of Indonesian citizens from abroad and foreigners living in the Southeast Asian archipelago will also be exempt.   "It applies to both domestic and international commercial travel but there are some exceptions,"  Transportation Ministry spokeswoman Adita Irawati told AFP.   The country's biggest airlines Garuda and Lion Air had already scaled backed their commercial flights as the tourism market shrivelled up. 

But the ban on sea travel could hamper the movement of millions in a country of some 17,000 islands where passenger ferries are a key mode of transportation.   The government had already called on residents of major cities, including the capital Jakarta, to stay put.   As of Thursday, Indonesia had confirmed 7,775 cases of COVID-19 and 647 deaths.   But the toll is widely believed to be much higher in a country with one of the lowest testing rates in the world.
Date: Thu, 16 Apr 2020 10:45:32 +0200 (METDST)

Jakarta, April 16, 2020 (AFP) - Reduced to sharing goggles and cheap raincoats, Indonesia's under-equipped doctors are battling a tide of coronavirus infections that is overwhelming its creaky health-care system -- and killing their colleagues.   Two dozen doctors have died since the pandemic began in the Southeast Asian nation, and critics warn that the official death toll of 459 is way below reality in a country with some of the lowest virus testing rates in the world.   Hospitals don't have enough basic protective gear -- never mind sophisticated ventilators -- leaving many poorly paid doctors to battle the virus with little more than plastic rain ponchos.

Jakarta doctor Muhammad Farras Hadyan said supplies are running so low at his hospital that some colleagues rely on donations from family members to buy the few available certified hazardous material suits.   "The rest rely on the hospital's supply and they've got to wait," he said.   Handoko Gunawan, a 79-year-old pulmonary specialist, was on the front lines until he was forced into quarantine on suspicion he had contracted the virus.   "I was shaking so bad, and the nurse was trembling," Gunawan, who later tested negative for the illness, said of treating patients.   "These young health workers have spouses and children at home, but they still brave the challenges.   "Doctors are scarce in Indonesia and if they die we'll have fewer people to treat patients," he added.

Indonesia has fewer than four doctors for every 10,000 people, according to World Health Organization data -- far below hard-hit Italy (around 40) or South Korea (about 24).   The Indonesian Doctors' Association has warned that the coronavirus crisis is much worse than reported and the government's response is "in tatters".   Latest official figures say Indonesia had some 5,136 confirmed cases, but only 36,000 people have been tested across a sprawling archipelago of more than 260 million -- the world's fourth most populous nation.   The health ministry revealed this week that nearly 140,000 Indonesians are being monitored on suspicion they may have the virus.   "The government's official data doesn't reflect the real picture of infections across the country," said Halik Malik, a spokesman for the doctors' association.

Jakarta municipal figures show more than 1,000 suspected or confirmed victims buried in local cemeteries under COVID-19 protocols that require bodies to be quickly interned -- about five times the government toll in the capital, the epicentre of the outbreak in Indonesia.   Burials in Bandung, a city in West Java that borders the capital region, have doubled to about 400 a month since the outbreak, the province's governor Ridwan Kamil told AFP.   "It is the same phenomenon as in Jakarta," Kamil said.   "We can't confirm these are all COVID-19, but the number of deaths is higher than usual."   The surge has left doctors like Raditya Nugraha and colleagues at a West Java hospital struggling to keep up, and having to share equipment.   "We don't have enough goggles so we take turns wearing them," he said.
Date: Tue, 31 Mar 2020 13:10:45 +0200 (METDST)

Jakarta, March 31, 2020 (AFP) - Indonesian leader Joko Widodo declared a state of emergency Tuesday as coronavirus deaths in the world's fourth most populous country jumped again, but he resisted calls for a nationwide lockdown.   Widodo's administration has been heavily criticised for not imposing lockdowns in major cities, including the capital Jakarta, a vast megalopolis home to about 30 million people where most of the country's virus deaths have been reported.

Indonesia's leader offered few details of the state of emergency beyond calling for stricter social distancing, but announced $1.5 billion in beefed-up social assistance and subsidies for low-income workers.   Tens of millions eke out a living on poorly-paid jobs in Southeast Asia's biggest economy.   "To overcome the impact of COVID-19, we've chosen the option of large-scale social distancing," Widodo told reporters.   "We must learn from the experience in other countries, but we cannot copy them because every country has its own characteristics," he added.

On Tuesday, authorities said 136 people had died after contracting the virus, with 1,528 confirmed cases of infection.   But the latter figure is widely thought to be well below the real number in the archipelago of more than 260 million.  The Indonesian Doctors' Association has warned that the coronavirus crisis is far worse than has been officially reported and that the government's response is "in tatters".

Jakarta's governor has said nearly 300 suspected or confirmed victims of the virus have been wrapped in plastic and quickly buried in the city since the start of March.   The capital's top politician has been pushing for a total lockdown of the city.   Also Tuesday, Indonesia's corrections agency said it is set to offer early release to about 30,000 inmates to help stem the spread of the virus in over-crowded prisons. The number amounts to more than 10 percent of Indonesia's 272,000 inmate population.
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Niue

No Profile is available at present

Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS

20th July 2012

- Niue Island. 20 Jul 2012. Two tourists visiting Niue have been taken to hospital with dengue fever. More than 100 people, or about 8 percent of the population, are believed to be suffering from the fever, and visitors are being warned to use insect repellent during early morning and evening. Dengue, which does not often occur on Niue, has been afflicting  the island since February [2012]. It was originally confined to a small area of Niue's main village but has now spread throughout the island. One local man recently died from a serious form of the virus.
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[A HealthMap/ProMED-mail interactive map showing the location of Niue Island in the Pacific Ocean can be accessed at <http://healthmap.org/r/1ZWb>. - ProMed Mod.TY]
Monday 30th April 2012
A ProMED-mail post
<http://www.promedmail.org>

- Niue Island. 24 Apr 2012. The Niue Health Department says it believes the dengue outbreak has peaked. The department says there have been 47 recorded cases of dengue fever, but only one case has been picked up in the last 7 days. The Acting Director of Health, Manila Nosa, says it's a relief to see the wane in cases, but it's too early to say that dengue is completely gone. He said that there has been a lot of rain lately, and it's hoped this won't contribute to a further spread.
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[A HealthMap/ProMED-mail interactive map of Niue Island can be accessed at <http://healthmap.org/r/1ZWb>. - ProMed Mod.TY]
Monday 16th April 2012
A ProMED-mail post
<http://www.promedmail.org>

- Niue Island. 12 Apr 2012. Health authorities on Niue are confident that they are on top of the latest dengue outbreak that has infected 20 people to date. The chief medical officer, Dr Eddie Akau'ola, says this outbreak began about 3 weeks ago but they believe they have been able to contain it. He says it is peaking now and they expect a decline in a week or 2. Dr Akau'ola says none of the cases have been too serious.
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[A HealthMap/ProMED-mail interactive map showing the location of Niue Island in the Pacific can be accessed at <http://healthmap.org/r/2bMz>. - ProMed Mod.TY]
Tuesday 13th March 2012
A ProMED-mail post
<http://www.promedmail.org/>

- Niue Island. 6 Mar 2012. Niue health authorities are hopeful they've contained a rare outbreak of dengue fever on the island where 3 people were reported with dengue last week, with 2 admitted to hospital.
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[A HealthMap/ProMED-mail interactive map showing the location of Niue Island in the Pacific can be accessed at <http://healthmap.org/r/1ZWb>. - ProMed Mod.TY]
Date: Sun, 24 Jul 2011 10:42:49 +0200 (METDST)
by Neil Sands

ALOFI, Niue, July 23, 2011 (AFP) - In a once-thriving village on the Pacific island of Niue, homes lie abandoned, their stucco-clad walls mildewed and crumbling as the jungle slowly reclaims them. "These villages used to be bustling with people -- now you go there in the afternoon and there's no one," says the Niue Tourism Authority chairman Hima Douglas. The number of people living on the lush coral atoll, about 2,500 kilometres (1,550 miles) northeast of New Zealand, has been declining for decades as inhabitants seek a better life overseas.

The population, which peaked at more than 5,000 in the mid-1960s, has dwindled to just 1,200, according to a New Zealand parliamentary report, raising doubts about the island nation's economic viability.  Douglas said a major cyclone in 2004, which destroyed much of Niue's infrastructure, accelerated the exodus, and the threat of future natural disasters was discouraging people from returning. "Of course it's concerning but it's not something we can do too much about until we can build an economy that will give them the confidence to come back," Niue's Premier Toke Talagi told reporters this month. "There aren't simple and easy answers to people leaving. We've got to build a strong economy and hope to attract them back." Known locally as "The Rock", Niue was settled by Polynesian seafarers more than 1,000 years ago and the palm-dotted island's name in the local language means "behold, the coconut".

The British explorer captain James Cook tried to land there three times in 1774 but was deterred by fearsome warriors, eventually giving up to set sail for more welcoming shores and naming Niue "savage island" on his charts. But modern day Niueans are desperate for visitors, with Talagi unveiling plans this month to turn it into a boutique tourism destination in a bid to put his nation on a sound economic footing. Using aid from New Zealand, with which Niue has a compact of free association giving its people dual citizenship, Talagi has overseen construction of a new tourism centre and expansion of the island's Matavai Resort.

Paths have also been cut through the jungle to give visitors access to swimming spots on the rugged limestone coastline, and cruise liners are being encouraged to include Niue on their itineraries. "We can become self-sustaining in the long term (and) reduce New Zealand assistance to Niue," Talagi said, estimating that visitor numbers could quadruple to 20,000 a year in the next decade. Addressing a visiting delegation of New Zealand business executives this month, Talagi acknowledged doubts about the nation's ability to meet the challenge. "I know some of you are a bit sceptical about our ability to become self sustaining... (but) tourism is not going to fail and I don't expect it to fail given the numbers that are being generated," he said.

The New Zealand parliamentary report, released last December, estimates that about 50,000 Niueans and their children now live in Australia and New Zealand, creating a shortage of skilled labour in one of the world's smallest states. "Niue is caught in a vicious cycle, with its economic difficulties both exacerbated by, and reflected in, the long-term decline of its population," it said, adding that 40 years of New Zealand aid "has yielded almost no return". The report's authors suggested Niue should concentrate on promoting itself as a retirement destination for elderly New Zealanders, who could help revitalise the economy. "The climate is excellent, existing buildings could be brought into service, and health facilities are satisfactory," it said. "Retirees would bring steady cash flow and contribute to stable employment options."

Asked about the suggestion, Talangi said "we'll look at everything", although one long-time resident, who asked not to be named, was unenthusiastic at the prospect. "How depressing to think that we might be turned into a major geriatric ward," she said. "Not that I have anything against old people, mind." Another resident said that whatever steps Niue took to improve its economy must result in major changes, pointing out people could earn more by moving to New Zealand and claiming unemployment benefits than working on the island. "It's pretty hard when your cuzzies (cousins) call you and say 'we're getting more on the dole in Auckland than you're getting paid'," he said.
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Mali

Mali - US Consular Information Sheet
December 19, 2008
COUNTRY DESCRIPTION:
Mali is a developing country in western Africa with a stable and democratic government.
The official language is French.
The capital is Bamako.
Faci
ities for tourism are limited.
Read the Department of State Background Notes on Mali for additional information.
ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS:
A passport and visa are required.
All travelers must have international vaccination cards with a current yellow fever immunization.
Travelers should obtain the latest visa information and entry requirements from the Republic of Mali Embassy at 2130 R Street NW, Washington, DC
20008, telephone (202) 332-2249.
Inquiries can be made at the nearest Malian embassy or consulate.
Visit the Embassy of Mali web site at http://www.maliembassy.us/ for the most current visa information.
Information about dual nationality or the prevention of international child abduction can be found on our web site. For further information about customs regulations, please read our Customs Information sheet.

SAFETY AND SECURITY: The U.S. Embassy in Bamako strongly advises American citizens to avoid traveling to the northern regions of Mali.
U.S. Government employees serving in Mali, including those on temporary duty, are required to have approval from the Chief of Mission prior to traveling to areas north of the Niger River, including Timbuktu and areas or north of Timbuktu.
Travelers should exercise caution when traveling in any isolated areas.

In August 2007, Tuareg dissidents attacked and kidnapped civilian and military convoys near the Mali-Niger border.
On January 3, 2008, four Italians were robbed at gunpoint near Araouane, 150 miles north of Timbuktu, by assailants whose affiliation remains unknown.
Tuareg rebels in the Kidal region attacked Malian military units in Tinzawaten and Boughessa in March 2008, in Abeibara in May 2008, and in Tessalit in July 2008.
On October 16, 2008, bandits in the Kidal region of Mali carjacked two vehicles belonging to the International Committee for the Red Cross.

Al-Qaeda in the Land of the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) has a presence in northern Mali.
AQIM began as a terrorist group seeking the overthrow of the Algerian government, and has been designated as a terrorist organization by both the United States and the European Union.
On October 31, 2008, in northern Mali, AQIM freed two Austrian tourists kidnapped in Tunisia eight months earlier.
The group has declared its intention to attack Algerian and Western targets.

This recent activity and the porous nature of Mali’s northern borders with Mauritania and Algeria, as well as its eastern border with Niger, reinforce long-standing concerns about security for travel in northern Mali.
The Department of State strongly urges citizens to reconsider traveling to northern Mali, including Timbuktu and Essakane.
Northern Mali hosts several annual music festivals in the desert, including one north of Timbuktu at Essakane, one north of Kidal at Essouk, and another near Menaka.
These are official events sanctioned by the Government of Mali.
Americans planning to attend these festivals or otherwise travel to the northern regions of Mali, despite this caution, are urged to notify the U.S. Embassy about their plans by e-mail at consularbamako@state.gov.
For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs’ web site at http://travel.state.gov, where the current Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts, as well as the Worldwide Caution, can be found.
Current information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll-free within the U.S. and Canada, or, for callers outside of the U.S. and Canada, on a regular toll line at 1-202-501-4444.
These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).
The Department of State urges American citizens to take responsibility for their own personal security while traveling overseas. For general information about appropriate measures travelers can take to protect themselves in an overseas environment, see the Department of State’s pamphlet A Safe Trip Abroad.
CRIME:
Violent crime in Mali is infrequent, but petty crimes, such as pick pocketing and simple theft, are common in urban areas.
Passports and wallets should be closely guarded when in crowded outdoor areas and open-air markets.
Individuals traveling on the Bamako-Dakar railroad are advised to be vigilant for pickpockets, especially at night.
Criminals will not hesitate to use violence if they encounter resistance from their victims.
There are sporadic reports of nighttime robberies occurring on the roads outside of the capital; tourists should not drive outside of Bamako at night.
Travelers should stay alert, remain in groups, and avoid poorly lit areas after dark.

Sporadic banditry and random carjacking have historically plagued Mali's vast desert region and its borders with Mauritania and Niger.
While banditry is not seen as targeting U.S. citizens specifically, such acts of violence cannot be predicted.

On July 1, 2008, six people working as USAID contractors were robbed of their vehicle and all belongings, at gunpoint, by three bandits between the villages of Temera and Bourem, approximately 120 km (75 miles) northeast of Gao along the Niger River.

From May 2008 until July 2008, there were a series of attacks at various Malian government installations.
While most of these have been in eastern Mali, on May 6, bandits attacked a military outpost in Diabali, 175 km (110 miles) north of Segou.
While these actions appear directed exclusively at government security facilities, including military, gendarmerie and national guard bases, bandits have been known to stop cars at gunpoint while making their escape.
Those traveling or living in Mali are strongly encouraged to register with the Embassy to allow e-mail notification should further attacks occur.
Please see the Registration/Embassy Location information at the end of this article.

INFORMATION FOR VICTIMS OF CRIME: The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate.
If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for assistance. The Embassy/Consulate staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care, contact family members or friends and explain how funds could be transferred. Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed.

The local equivalent to the “911” emergency line in Mali is:
1212
See our information on Victims of Crime.
MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION:
Medical facilities in Mali are limited, especially outside of the capital, Bamako.
Psychiatric care is non-existent.
The U.S. Embassy in Bamako maintains a list of physicians and other healthcare professionals who may see U.S. citizen patients.
The Embassy cannot guarantee these services or specifically recommend any physicians.

The U.S. Department of State is unaware of any HIV/AIDS entry restrictions for visitors to, or foreign residents of, Mali.
Many American medicines are unavailable; French medications are more easily found.
Available medications can be obtained at pharmacies throughout Bamako, and are usually less expensive than those in the U.S.
Travelers should carry with them an adequate supply of needed medication and prescription drugs, along with copies of the prescriptions, including the generic names for the drugs.
Caution should be taken to avoid purchasing potentially dangerous counterfeit medications when buying on the local market in Mali.
Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747) or via the CDC’s web site at http://wwwn.cdc.gov/travel/default.aspx.
For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad consult the World Health Organization’s (WHO) web site at http://www.who.int/en.
Further health information for travelers is available at http://www.who.int/ith/en
MEDICAL INSURANCE:
The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and whether it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation. Please see our information on medical insurance overseas.

TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS: While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States.
The information below concerning Mali is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.
U.S. citizens traveling by road in Mali should exercise caution.
Mali has paved roads leading from Bamako to Segou, Mopti and Sikasso.
During the rainy season from mid-June to mid-September, some unpaved roads may be impassable.
On many roads outside of the capital, deep sand and ditches are common.
Four-wheel drive vehicles with spare tires and emergency equipment are recommended.
The Embassy strongly urges all travelers to avoid traveling after dark on roads outside of urban centers.
The roads from Gao to Kidal and Menaka, and the roads around Timbuktu, are desert tracks with long isolated stretches.
Travelers must be prepared to repair their vehicles should they break down or become stuck in the sand.
Travelers should also carry plenty of food and water.
Drivers drive on the right-hand side of the road in Mali.
Speed limits range from 40-60 km per hour (25-40 miles per hour) within towns, to 100 km per hour (60 miles per hour) between cities.
Road conditions often require lower speeds.
Due to safety concerns, the Embassy recommends against the use of motorbikes, van taxis, and public transportation.
Excessive speeds, poorly maintained vehicles, lack of street lighting and roving livestock pose serious road hazards.
Many vehicles are not maintained well and headlights are either extremely dim or not used.
Driving conditions in the capital of Bamako can be particularly dangerous due to limited street lighting, the absence of sidewalks for pedestrians, and the number of motorcycles, mopeds and bicycles.
Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information.
The Malian authority for road safety is the Compagnie Nationale de Circulation Routiere in Bamako at telephone (223) 20-22-38-83.
AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT:
As there is no direct commercial air service to the United States by carriers registered in Mali, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed Mali’s Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards.
For more information, travelers may visit the FAA’s web site at http://www.faa.gov/safety/programs_initiatives/oversight/iasa.

SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES:
Mali is signatory to the Treaty on Cultural Property, which restricts exportation of Malian archeological objects, in particular those from the Niger River Valley.
Visitors seeking to export any such property are required by Malian law to obtain an export authorization from the National Museum in Bamako.
It is advisable to contact the Embassy of Mali in Washington or the nearest Malian consulate for specific information regarding customs requirements.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection may impose corresponding import restrictions in accordance with the Convention on Cultural Property Implementation Act.
Currency exchange facilities are slow and often involve out-of-date rates.
The U.S. Embassy cannot provide exchange facilities for private Americans.
There are a few ATMs in Bamako that accept American credit cards and debit cards with a Visa logo only.
Maximum withdrawals are generally limited to $400, and local banks charge up to $20 per transaction for use of their ATMs.
There are no ATMs outside of Bamako.
Credit cards are accepted only at major hotels, a few travel agencies, and select restaurants.
Cash advances on credit cards are available from only one bank in Mali, the BMCD Bank in Bamako, and the only card they accept for this is Visa.

The U.S. Embassy does not always receive timely notification by Malian authorities of the arrest of Americans.
U.S. citizens are encouraged to carry a copy of their passport with them at all times, so that proof of identity and citizenship are readily available in the event of questioning by local authorities.
If arrested, U.S. citizens should always politely insist they be allowed to contact the U.S. Embassy (see section on Registration/Embassy Location below).
Photographing military subjects is restricted.
One should also obtain explicit permission from the Malian government before photographing transportation facilities and government buildings.
Taking a photograph without permission in any public area may provoke a response from security personnel or offend the people being photographed.
Taking photos of the U.S. Embassy is also prohibited.
International telephone calls are expensive, and collect calls cannot be made from outside of Bamako.
Please see our Customs Information.
CRIMINAL PENALTIES:
While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections that are available to individuals under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating Mali’s laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Mali are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines.
Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime, prosecutable in the United States.
Please see our information on Criminal Penalties.

CHILDREN'S ISSUES:
For information, see our Office of Children’s Issues web pages on intercountry adoption and international parental child abduction.

REGISTRATION / EMBASSY LOCATION:
Americans living or traveling in Mali are encouraged to register with the U.S. Embassy or through the State Department’s travel registration web site so that they can obtain current information on travel and security within Mali.
Americans without Internet access may register directly with the U.S. Embassy.
By registering, American citizens make it easier for the Embassy to contact them in case of emergency.
The U.S. Embassy is located in ACI 2000 at Rue 243, Porte 297.
The Embassy's mailing address is B.P. 34, Bamako, Mali.
The telephone number is (223) 20-70-2300.
The consular fax number is (223) 20-70-2340.
The Embassy web page is at http://mali.usembassy.gov
* * *
This replaces the Country Specific Information for Mali dated February 7, 2008, to update the sections on Safety and Security, Crime, Information for Victims of Crime, and Traffic Safety and Road Conditions.

Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS

Date: Tue, 12 May 2020 19:25:36 +0200 (METDST)

Bamako, May 12, 2020 (AFP) - Three people have been killed in the western Malian city of Kayes, a police official said Tuesday, in unrest that began after an off-duty officer shot a youngster dead.   Protests have been ongoing since late Monday, when a police officer attempted to stop a group of youngsters from riding their motorbikes, and subsequently shot and killed an 18-year-old named Seyba Tamboura.

Mamadou Zoumana Sidibe, the governor of the Kayes region, said Tamboura's friends torched a police station during the night in response.   They then barricaded themselves on a bridge in the city, where they remained on Tuesday.    An official in Kayes police force, who declined to be named, said three people had been killed in total -- including Tamboura -- in circumstances that remain unclear.

Earlier in the day, Security Minister Salif Traore said he had asked police "not to use force" in resolving the situation, as he travelled to city to oversee the operation.   The unrest in Kayes follows a string of anti-government protests in the city concerning both Mali's legislative election and its coronavirus restrictions.    The West African state held a long-delayed parliamentary election in March in which the results for dozens of seats were disputed.

Protesters took to the streets in several cities, including Kayes, when the Supreme Court declared the winners of the contested seats in late April.    City residents had also demonstrated against a night-time curfew meant to stem the spread of coronavirus, which the government lifted on Saturday.    Seydou Diallo, the regional director of Kayes police force, apologised for the killing of Tamboura and said the offending officer had not been on patrol during the incident and was now in custody.   "We cannot tolerate such indiscipline," he said. "This is an unfortunate incident for the police".
Date: Mon, 11 May 2020 00:56:22 +0200 (METDST)

Bamako, May 10, 2020 (AFP) - Three UN troops were killed and four more wounded when their convoy hit a roadside bomb early Sunday, officials said, in the latest violence to hit the war-torn West African state.   UN chief Antonio Guterres condemned the attack and called on the perpetrators to be brought to justice.   Chadian peacekeepers were on a routine patrol in Aguelhok commune in the north of the country, the UN peacekeeping mission in Mali, known as MINUSMA, said in a statement.

Three soldiers were killed and four were seriously wounded in the blast, it added.   "We will have to make every effort to identify and apprehend those responsible for these terrorist acts so that they can be brought to justice," said MINUSMA mission head Mahamat Saleh Annadif.    "I bow before the remains of these brave blue helmets who died in the service of peace in Mali".

UN Secretary-General Guterres also condemned what he described as a "cowardly" attack.   Guterres called on the authorities in Mali to spare no effort to identify those responsible "so that they can be brought to justice swiftly".   The statement from his office also said that attacks targeting United Nations peacekeepers could constitute war crimes under international law.   The UN mission has some 13,000 troops drawn from several nations deployed across the vast semi-arid country.

Mali is struggling to contain an Islamist insurgency that erupted in 2012 and which has claimed thousands of military and civilian lives since.   Despite the presence of thousands of French and UN troops, the conflict has engulfed the centre of the country and spread to neighbouring Burkina Faso and Niger.     Laying roadside bombs is a favoured tactic of jihadists active in the Sahel.    Also known as improvised explosive devices, they kill and maim scores of victims every year in Mali.
Date: Wed, 5 Feb 2020 21:28:44 +0100 (MET)

Bamako, Feb 5, 2020 (AFP) - Seven people have died in an outbreak of Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever, also known as Congo fever, in a village in central Mali, an official said.  Yacouba Maiga, the spokesperson for the regional government of the central Mopti region, said that a shepherd "contracted the illness from an ox" in the village of Samoa in late January.   He was treated but the disease surfaced again on February 1 infecting 14 people and killing five, the official said.    Two other patients died while being transported to the town of Sevare, in central Mali, for treatment.     "It's different to coronavirus," said Maiga, referring to the deadly SARS-like virus currently sweeping China. 

Congo fever is a tick-borne viral disease which causes severe haemorrhaging, according to the World Health Organization.   People are often infected after they come into contact with the blood of infected animals, often after slaughtering livestock.   Humans in very close contact with each other, however, can also transmit the disease.   "It's a rare pathology in Mali. There have been cases around 10 years ago," Health Minister Michel Sidibe told AFP.

Health officials were preparing for an "investigative mission in the area with the support of security forces," according to a health ministry report from Monday, which was seen by AFP on Wednesday.    However, an official in Mopti said the fact-finding team had not yet left on Wednesday.    The Mopti region in Mali is hit by regular jihadist attacks, as a conflict between the militant and government and foreign forces is raging in the area.  The violence has its roots in a 2012 rebellion in northern Mali, which has since spread to the centre of the country, and also to neighbouring Burkina Faso and Niger.
Date: Thu 26 Dec 2019
Source: WHO Emergencies preparedness, response [edited]

From 3 Nov through 8 Dec 2019, 3 laboratory-confirmed cases of yellow fever including 2 deaths (case fatality rate = 67%) were detected through the national surveillance system in Mali. The 1st case-patient was a 15-year-old girl from a village in Kati district, Koulikoro region, Mali. The 2nd and 3rd cases were in 17- and 25-year-old men, nationals from Cote d'Ivoire, living in the district of Bouguimi, Sikasso region, Mali. All 3 cases tested positive for yellow fever by immunoglobulin M (IgM) and reverse-transcriptase polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) on 3 Dec 2019 at Institute Pasteur Dakar (IPD). The 1st case was not vaccinated against yellow fever and had no travel history outside of Kati district. Meanwhile, the vaccination status for the other 2 cases was unknown.

Additionally, there were 9 suspected and 3 probable cases reported from the Bouguimi district, including 3 deaths among the probable cases. The age of the suspected, probable, and confirmed cases ranges between 1 and 33 years, and the male-to-female ratio is 2:1. Among the reported symptoms, fever, jaundice, and vomiting were the most common. There are 8 health areas of Bouguimi health district that have been affected, with Manakoro (4 cases) and Mafele (3 cases) reporting the highest number. One suspected case is pending for confirmation at the Institute Pasteur Dakar laboratory.

On 5 Dec 2019, the government of Mali officially declared a yellow fever outbreak in 2 regions of Sikasso and Koulikoro.

Public health response
- An emergency operations centre (EOC) for public health coordination of the outbreak in the regions of Sikasso, Koulikoro, and the affected districts has been set up. In addition, an EOC has been activated in
Bamako city.
- A multidisciplinary rapid response team was deployed to conduct investigations in the affected districts of Sikasso and Koulikoro regions. A plan to conduct an in-depth entomological survey is underway.
- Enhanced epidemiological surveillance, including active case finding in both the affected districts, has been strengthened.
- A comprehensive response plan is being developed with specific objectives, including the preparation for an international-coordination-group (ICG) request to conduct a yellow fever reactive mass-vaccination campaign.
- Risk communication capacity through involvement of relevant stakeholders [is being provided], as well as public communication and awareness efforts on yellow fever (signs, symptoms, and vaccinations), including prevention measures.
- On 3 Dec 2019, a joint investigation team (WHO Country Office and Ministry of Health) was deployed to characterize the risk and develop an intervention plan. Field investigations indicate vaccination coverage under 80% in Kati and 88% in Manakoro districts.

WHO risk assessment
Although population immunity in the southern regions of Mali has benefited from large-scale preventive mass vaccination campaigns in 2008 (5.8 million people protected) combined with nationwide children routine immunization since 2002, the overall national routine immunization coverage for yellow fever in 2018 was estimated to be 67%, with estimates nearly 80% in the non-desert areas (including the recently affected Koulikoro and Sissako regions). This is below herd immunity thresholds and may indicate the presence of pockets of low immunity in the country. Kati district in Koulikoro region is located proximal to the capital city, Bamako, an urban city with more than 2 million inhabitants, and Bouguimi district in Sikasso region borders with Cote d'Ivoire.

The high population movements within Mali and across borders increases the risk of national and regional spread, and this may have diluted the population immunity. The geographical distribution of the virus, coupled with suboptimal vaccination coverage, and the presence of susceptible populations presents a risk of amplification. Furthermore, the protracted humanitarian crisis and concomitant ongoing outbreaks of epidemic-prone diseases (measles, dengue) may impact the response due to competing limited resources.

Based on available information, WHO assesses the overall risk as high at the national level, moderate at the regional level, and low at the global level.

WHO advice
Yellow fever is an acute viral haemorrhagic disease transmitted by infected mosquitoes and has the potential to spread rapidly and cause serious public health impact. There is no specific treatment, although the disease is preventable using a single dose of yellow fever vaccine, which provides immunity for life. Supportive care to treat dehydration, respiratory failure, and fever, and antibiotic treatment for associated bacterial infections, is recommended.

Mali is a high-priority country for the Eliminate Yellow Fever Epidemic (EYE) strategy. Vaccination is the primary intervention for prevention and control of yellow fever. In urban centres, targeted vector control measures are also helpful to interrupt transmission. WHO and partners will continue to support local authorities to implement interventions necessary to control the current outbreak.

WHO recommends vaccination against yellow fever for all international travellers more than 9 months of age going to areas south of the Sahara Desert in Mali. The vaccine is contraindicated in children aged less than 6 months and is not recommended for those aged 6-8 months, except during epidemics when the risk of infection with yellow fever virus may be very high. Other contraindications for yellow fever vaccination are severe hypersensitivity to egg and severe immunodeficiency. Caution is recommended before vaccinating people aged above 60 years against yellow fever.

WHO does not recommend vaccination for travellers whose itineraries are limited to areas within the Sahara Desert. Vaccination is recommended, if indicated, for pregnant or breastfeeding women travelling to endemic areas when such travel cannot be avoided or postponed. Mali requires as a condition of entry a yellow fever vaccination certificate for all travellers aged one year or over.

Yellow fever vaccines recommended by WHO are safe and highly effective and provide life-long protection against infection. In accordance with the IHR (2005) 3rd edition, the validity of the international certificate of vaccination against yellow fever extends to the life of the person vaccinated with a WHO-approved vaccine. For both existing or new certificates, revaccination or a booster dose of yellow fever vaccine cannot be required of international travellers as a condition of entry into a state party, regardless of the date their international certificate of vaccination was initially issued.

On 1 Jul 2019, WHO updated the areas at risk of yellow fever transmission and the corresponding recommendations for vaccination of international travelers. The list of countries at risk and revised recommendations for vaccination against yellow fever are available on the WHO website (International travel and health (ITH),  <https://www.who.int/ith/en/>).

WHO encourage its member states to take all actions necessary to keep travellers well informed of risks and preventive measures including vaccination. Travellers should also be made aware of yellow fever signs and symptoms and instructed to seek rapid medical advice should they develop signs of illness. Travellers returning to Mali who may be infected with possible high levels of the virus in the blood may pose a risk for the establishment of local cycles of yellow fever transmission in areas where the competent vector is present.

WHO does not recommend any restrictions on travel or trade to Mali on the basis of the information available on this outbreak.
=======================
[This updated report includes information about 9 suspected and 3 probable yellow fever (YF) cases that were not mentioned in previous reports, indicating that the outbreak was more extensive than originally stated, with an outbreak declared by government authorities in the 2 regions. These additional cases may have been a result of the additional surveillance that has been undertaken. Since vaccination coverage has been found to be less than 80% and 88% in Kati and Manakoro districts, respectively, presumably the preventive measures mentioned will include vaccination. The entomological survey will be an important factor in risk assessment. The presence of abundant populations of the mosquito vector, _Aedes aegypti_, would be of concern, raising the possibility of urban transmission of YF virus that might get out of hand quickly. - ProMED Mod.TY]

[HealthMap/ProMED-mail maps:
Date: Sun 8 Dec 2019
Source: WHO Weekly Bulletin on Outbreaks and Other Emergencies [edited]

On 3 Dec 2019, WHO was informed through internal communication of 3 yellow fever cases in Mali, including one death. Of these, 2 of the cases are from Wogouna and Keregoura villages, Bougoni district, Sikasso region in the South of Mali and one from Nanakenieba village, Kati district, Koulikoro region in the south west of Mali.

The reported cases are young adults (15-25 years), one female and 2 males, with onset of symptoms in early November 2019.

The cases tested yellow fever IgM and PCR positive at Institute Pasteur Dakar on 3 Dec 2019.

The vaccination status of the cases is being investigated (2 of the cases reported vaccination in the past). The latest vaccination campaign in the country was performed in 2008 including the affected areas where the vaccination coverage was reported to be between 50 and 9% in 2008. The average national vaccination coverage for 2017 has been reported at 65% (data from Imperial College). The YF routine vaccination in the country was introduced in 2002.

A field investigation is ongoing. According to historical data, 10 cases were detected in Mali in 2015.
======================
[This report provides some additional details in that 2 patients were male and one female along with their vaccination status, which were not included in the original post (see Yellow fever - Africa (25): Mali (BA, SK), Cote d'Ivoire http://promedmail.org/post/20191207.6827680). As in the original report, no mention is made of plans to vaccinate in the localities where the cases became infected. Vaccination in those areas is an effective preventive measure especially since, as the report notes, the mosquito vector, _Aedes aegypti_, is abundant enough to transmit dengue viruses. Yellow fever can spread rapidly and quickly get out of hand in susceptible populations with abundant mosquito vectors, as it did in Angola in 2016. - ProMED Mod.TY]

[HealthMap/ProMED-mail maps:
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Bulgaria

Bulgaria US Consular Information Sheet
September 20, 2007
COUNTRY DESCRIPTION: Bulgaria is a quickly developing European nation undergoing significant economic changes.
Tourist facilities are widely available, although conditions vary and
ome facilities may not be up to Western standards.
Goods and services taken for granted in other European countries may not be available in many areas of Bulgaria.
Read the Department of State Background Notes on Bulgaria for additional information.
ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS:
A United States passport is required for U.S. citizens who are not also Bulgarian nationals.
As of September 1, 2006, U.S. citizens who enter the country without a Bulgarian visa are authorized to stay for a total of 90 days within a six-month period.
This law is strictly enforced.
An application to extend one’s stay beyond the original 90 days can be filed for urgent or humanitarian reasons, but must be submitted to regional police authorities no later than five days prior to the end of the original 90-day period.
Travelers who have been in the country for 90 days, and then leave, will not be able to reenter Bulgaria before the six-month period expires.
Travelers using official or diplomatic passports must secure visas prior to arrival.
Upon entering the country, Bulgarian immigration authorities request that all foreigners declare the purpose of their visit and provide their intended address.
U.S. citizens intending to live or work in Bulgaria for more than 90 days within six months (or more than six months within a year) must obtain a “D” visa prior to arrival.
The practice of switching from tourist status to long-term status when already in Bulgaria is no longer allowed.
Those wanting to do so must leave Bulgaria and apply for a “D” visa at a Bulgarian embassy or consulate.
This procedure takes from two to four weeks.
American citizens who marry Bulgarian nationals and want to switch to long-term status must also leave the country, present their marriage license at a Bulgarian embassy or consulate in a neighboring country, and apply for a “D” visa.

The Bulgarian authorities do not consider presentation of a copy of the passport sufficient for identification purposes.
Visitors should carry their original passports with them at all times.
For further information concerning entry requirements, travelers should contact the Embassy of the Republic of Bulgaria at 1621 22nd St. N.W., Washington, D.C. 20008; http://www.bulgaria-embassy.org; tel. (202) 387-7969 (main switchboard (202) 387-0174), or the Bulgarian Consulate in New York City at 121 East 62nd Street, New York, NY 10021; http://www.consulbulgaria-ny.org; tel. (212) 935-4646.
See our Foreign Entry Requirements brochure for more information on Bulgaria and other countries.
Visit the Embassy of Bulgaria web site at http://www.bulgaria-embassy.org for the most current visa information.
Traveling with Bulgarian minors: Bulgarian authorities are particularly strict in matters involving the travel of Bulgarian children.
Adults, other than a child’s parents, departing Bulgaria with a Bulgarian national (including dual or multi-national Bulgarian) child, must present to authorities a certified/legalized declaration signed by the child’s parents authorizing custody for travel purposes.
This holds true even if the adult is otherwise related to the child.
If the declaration is signed in Bulgaria, certification by a Bulgarian notary public is required.
If signed in the U.S., the declaration must be certified by a notary public and the court in the jurisdiction where the notary is licensed.
The declaration must then be legalized with an apostille issued by the individual state's Department of State or the Governor’s office.
Please note Bulgarian authorities do not require such documentation for minors who are not Bulgarian.
Find more information about dual nationality and the prevention of international child abduction on our web site. For further information about customs regulations, please read our Customs Information.

SAFETY AND SECURITY:
Bulgaria’s accession to the European Union has enhanced the overall security environment for tourist and business travelers.
However, the country still suffers from many of the ills of a former Eastern Bloc country in transition.
Organized crime groups and criminals who specialize in petty crimes and credit card fraud are highly prevalent in Bulgaria’s largely cash economy.
Petty criminals such as pick-pockets and purse snatchers operate in crowded public areas and on public transportation.
Also, technology exists in Bulgaria to clone credit cards and trap ATM cards for later retrieval.
Suspected organized crime members often travel in convoys of late-model SUVs and luxury sedans, accompanied by armed men, and frequent expensive restaurants, hotels, and nightclubs.
For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department’s Internet web site at http://travel.state.gov, where the current Worldwide Caution Public Announcement, Travel Warnings and Public Announcements can be found.

Up-to-date information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the U.S. and Canada, or for callers outside the U.S. and Canada, a regular toll-line at 1-202-501-4444.
These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).
The Department of State urges American citizens to take responsibility for their own personal security while traveling overseas.
For general information about appropriate measures travelers can take to protect themselves in an overseas environment, see the Department of State’s pamphlet A Safe Trip Abroad.
CRIME:
Petty street crime, much of which is directed against persons who appear to have money or to be foreign, continues to be a problem.
Pocket picking and purse snatching are frequent occurrences, especially in crowded markets and on shopping streets.
Con artists operate on public transportation and in bus and train stations.
Credit cards and ATMs should be used with caution.
Be wary of people who approach you at an ATM and offer assistance.
Do not give your PIN number to anyone under any circumstances. (See the Special Circumstances section below.) Travelers should be suspicious of "instant friends" and should also require persons claiming to be government officials to show identification.
There have been incidents in which tourists have been drugged or assaulted and robbed after accepting offers of coffee or alcoholic beverages from "friendly” individuals met by “chance” at hotels, the airport, or at bus or train stations.
Travelers should be wary of unfamiliar individuals who encourage them to drink or eat products, as these may be tainted with strong tranquilizers (such as valium) that can lead rapidly to unconsciousness.
Reporting a crime immediately to the police has helped recover money and valuables on more than one occasion and is recommended.
To avoid becoming a victim of more serious crimes, one should use the same personal safety precautions that they would use in large urban areas of the United States.

Travelers should pay special attention to the drink prices at high-end bars and nightclubs.
There have been instances of travelers being charged exorbitant prices, especially for champagne and hard alcohol.
Bills have been as high as several thousand dollars for drinks, and in some establishments the management may use force to assure payment.

On occasion, taxi drivers overcharge unwary travelers, particularly at Sofia Airport and the Central Train Station.
We recommend travelers use taxis with meters and clearly marked rates displayed on a sticker on the passenger side of the windshield.
Travelers should be aware that there is no official commission that sets taxi cab rates.
Taxi drivers are within their full rights to charge passengers any price they want, provided that it corresponds with the price shown on the windshield sticker.
At the airport, there is a clearly marked booth within the arrivals terminal, which arranges for metered taxis at a fair rate.
Finding reputable taxis at the Central Train Station is more difficult.
It is recommended to inquire about the fare first, to avoid excessive payment if a metered taxi cannot be found.
Always ensure that you have and account for all luggage, packages and hand-carried items before you pay and release a taxi.
The likelihood of retrieving articles left behind in a taxi is remote.
Because pilferage of checked baggage may occur at Sofia Airport, travelers should not include items of value in checked luggage.
Automobile theft is a concern, with four-wheel-drive vehicles and late model European sedans the most popular targets.
Very few vehicles are recovered.
Thieves smash vehicle windows to steal valuables left in sight.
Break-ins at residential apartments occur as frequently as in major cities everywhere.
Persons who plan to reside in Bulgaria on a long-term basis should take measures to protect their dwellings.
Long-term residents should consider installation of window grilles, steel doors with well-functioning locks, and an alarm system that alerts an armed response team.

Travelers should also be cautious about making credit card charges over the Internet to unfamiliar websites.
As recent experience has shown, offers for merchandise and services may be scam artists posing as legitimate businesses.
A recent example involves Internet credit card payments to alleged tour operators via Bulgaria-based web sites.
In several cases, the corresponding businesses did not actually exist.
INFORMATION FOR VICTIMS OF CRIME:
The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate.
If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for assistance.
The Embassy/Consulate staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care, contact family members or friends and explain how funds could be transferred.
Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed.
See our information on Victims of Crime.
MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION:
While Bulgarian physicians are trained to a very high standard, most hospitals and clinics, especially in village areas, are generally not equipped and maintained to meet U.S. or Western European standards.
Basic medical supplies and over-the-counter and prescription medications are widely available, but highly specialized treatment may not be obtainable.
Pediatric facilities are in need of funding and lack equipment.
Serious medical problems requiring hospitalization and/or medical evacuation to the United States may cost thousands of dollars.
Doctors and hospitals often expect immediate cash payment for health services.
Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747) or via the CDC’s Internet site at http://wwwn.cdc.gov/travel/default.aspx.
For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad consult the World Health Organization’s (WHO) web site at http://www.who.int/en.
Further health information for travelers is available at http://www.who.int/ith/en.
MEDICAL INSURANCE:
The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and whether it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation.
Please see our information on medical insurance overseas.
All foreign citizens traveling to Bulgaria should be prepared to present valid evidence of health insurance to the Bulgarian border authorities in order to be admitted into the country.
The insurance should be valid for the duration of the traveler’s stay in Bulgaria.
TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS:
While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States.
The information below concerning Bulgaria is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.
The Bulgarian road system is largely underdeveloped.
There are few sections of limited-access divided highway.
Some roads are in poor repair and full of potholes.
Rockslides and landslides may be encountered on roads in mountainous areas.
Livestock and animal-drawn carts present road hazards throughout the country, especially during the agricultural season.
Travel conditions deteriorate during the winter as roads become icy and potholes proliferate.
The U.S. Embassy in Sofia advises against driving at night because road conditions are more dangerous in the dark.
Some roads lack pavement markings and lights, and motorists often drive with dim or missing headlights.
Driving in Bulgaria is extremely dangerous.
Aggressive driving habits, the lack of safe infrastructure, and a mixture of late model and old model cars on the country’s highways contribute to a high fatality rate for road accidents.
Heavy traffic conditions have led to a significant increase in “road-rage” accidents.
Motorists should avoid confrontations with aggressive drivers in Bulgaria.
In particular, drivers of late-model sedans (BMW, Mercedes, Audi) are known to speed and drive dangerously.
Motorists should exercise caution and avoid altercations with the drivers of such vehicles, which may be driven by armed organized crime figures.
In some cities traffic lights late at night blink yellow in all directions, leaving rights-of-way unclear and contributing to frequent accidents.
Heavy truck traffic along the two-lane routes from the Greek border at Kulata to Sofia and from the Turkish border at Kapitan Andre to Plovdiv creates numerous hazards.
Motorists should expect long delays at border crossings.
A U.S. state driver's license is valid in Bulgaria only when used in conjunction with an International Driving Permit.
For information on how to obtain a permit, please see our road safety information.
If pulled over by a police officer, motorists should remember that, under Bulgarian law, police officers may not collect fines on the spot; they may only issue a ticket with the fine to be paid at the motorist’s local regional tax office.
Buses, trams, and trolleys are inexpensive, but they are often crowded and of widely varying quality.
Passengers on the busiest lines have reported pick pocketing, purse slashing, and pinching. The use of seat belts is mandatory in Bulgaria for all passengers, except pregnant women.
Children under 10 years of age may ride in the front seat only if seated in a child car seat.
In practice, these rules are often not followed.
Speed limits are 50 km/h in the cities/towns, 90 km/h out of town, and 130 km/h on the highways.
For motorcycles, speed limits are 50 km/h in the cities/towns, 80 km/h out of town, and 100 km/h on the highways.
Motorcyclists must drive with helmets and with lights on at all times.
At crossings that are not regulated, the driver who is on the right has the right-of-way, but this rule, too, is frequently ignored.
Drivers may be charged with driving under the influence of alcohol with a blood level as low as 0.05 percent.
Right turns on red lights are not permitted unless specifically authorized.
The penalties for drivers involved in an accident resulting in injury or death range from a 25 U.S. Dollar fine up to imprisonment for life.
A new law requires the use of headlights day and night from November 1st through March 31st.
The most generally encountered local traffic custom is a driver flashing high beams, which usually means that a traffic police post is ahead.
In case of emergency, drivers should contact the police at telephone number 166 and/or Roadside Assistance at telephone number 146.
For an ambulance, please call 150.
The fire department can be reached at 160.
For specific information concerning Bulgarian driving permits, vehicle inspection, road tax, and mandatory insurance, please contact the Bulgarian Embassy via the Internet at http://www.bulgaria-embassy.org.
Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information.
Visit the web site of the country’s national tourist office at http://www.bulgariatravel.org/eng/index.php and the web site of the Bulgarian national authority responsible for road safety at http://www.kat.mvr.bg.
[Note: the latter web site is available in the Bulgarian language only.]
AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the Government of Bulgaria’s Civil Aviation Authority as not being in compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards for the oversight of Bulgaria’s air carrier operations.
For more information, travelers may visit the FAA’s Internet web site at http://www.faa.gov/safety/programs_initiatives/oversight/iasa.

SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES:
Bulgaria is still largely a cash economy.
Due to the potential for fraud and other criminal activity, credit cards should be used sparingly and with extreme caution.
There have been reports of false ATM fronts on bona fide machines that capture cards and PINs for later criminal use, including unauthorized charges or withdrawals.
In connection with such scams, travelers should be extremely wary of friendly bystanders near ATMs who offer assistance.
Any time a card is not returned the traveler should immediately report the card as lost/stolen to the card-issuing company.

Visitors may exchange cash at banks or Exchange Bureaus, but they should know that Exchange Bureaus sometimes post misleading rate quotations that confuse travelers.
People on the street who offer high rates of exchange are usually con artists intent on swindling the unwary traveler.
Damaged or very worn U.S dollar bank notes are often not accepted at banks or Exchange Bureaus.
Major branches of the following Bulgarian banks will cash travelers' cheques on the spot for Leva, the Bulgarian currency, or another desired currency:
Bulbank, Bulgarian Postbank, Biochim, First Investment Bank, and United Bulgarian Bank (UBB).
UBB also serves as a Western Union agent and provides direct transfer of money to travelers in need.
There are also many Western Union branches in major towns and cities.
Most shops, hotels, and restaurants, with the exception of the major hotels, do not accept travelers' cheques or credit cards.
Only some local banks can cash U.S. Treasury checks and the payee may need to wait up to a month to receive funds.
Corruption remains an important concern of the Government.
The Commission for Coordinating of the Activity for Combating Corruption manages the efforts of each government agency’s internal inspectorate in fighting public corruption and engages in public awareness campaigns.
Complaints of public corruption can be made to it at the Ministry of Justice, 2A Knyaz Dondukov Blvd., 1055 Sofia, Bulgaria, email: acc@government.bg, 359-2-980-9213, 359-2-923-7595, 359-2-940-3630 or to the Ministry of Finance hotline: 0800180018.
Please see our Customs Information.
CRIMINAL PENALTIES:
While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law.
Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses.
Persons violating Bulgaria’s laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned.
Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Bulgaria are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines.
Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime, prosecutable in the United States.
Please see our information on Criminal Penalties.

CHILDREN'S ISSUES:
For information see our Office of Children’s Issues web pages on intercountry adoption and international parental child abduction.

REGISTRATION / EMBASSY LOCATION:
Americans living or traveling in Bulgaria are encouraged to register with the U.S. Embassy through the State Department’s travel registration web site, and to obtain updated information on travel and security within Bulgaria.
Americans without Internet access may use a public computer at the U.S. Embassy to register.
By registering, American citizens make it easier for the Embassy or Consulate to contact them in case of emergency.
The U.S. Embassy is located at 16, Kozyak St., Sofia1407; tel.: (+359 2) 937-5100; fax (+359 2) 937-5209; web site: http://sofia.usembassy.gov/.
Questions regarding consular services may be directed via email to: niv_sofia@state.gov (for non-immigrant visa matters); iv_sofia@state.gov (for immigrant visa matters) and acs_sofia@state.gov (for American Citizen Services matters).
*

*

*
This replaces the Consular Information Sheet dated March 28, 2007, to update the sections on Entry and Exit
Requirements, Safety and Security, Crime, Traffic Safety and Road Conditions, Children’s Issues, and Registration/Embassy.

Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS

Date: Tue, 5 May 2020 14:44:55 +0200 (METDST)

Sofia, May 5, 2020 (AFP) - Bulgaria announced Tuesday that schools would remain shut until September in order to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus, with all teaching online until then.   "We reached a solid consensus with parents, teachers and health officials that the school year should finish online," Education Minister Krasimir Valchev told journalists Tuesday.   The only exceptions to the school closures will be for those sitting important exams in the 7th and 12th grades, Valchev added.   Those exams, in mathematics and literature, will be held on various dates between June 1 and 17. No more than 10 students will sit in any exam room, strictly observing distancing and disinfection rules, said the minister.

While the new school year is scheduled to begin in mid-September as usual, kindergartens will remain shut indefinitely.   On March 6, even before the novel coronavirus arrived in Bulgaria, a flu epidemic prompted the authorities to close down classes for the country's 708,000 primary and secondary school students.    They stayed closed as the country acted to limit the spread of the coronavirus.   Teachers have switched to teaching online, while social workers have delivered printed school materials to children, especially those in Roma neighbourhoods, who have no access to computers. Lessons have also been broadcast on public television.

Bulgaria, a country of just under seven million people has so far registered just 1,689 coronavirus cases and 78 deaths.   The government announced this week that it would not prolong the state of emergency in place to combat the virus beyond May 13.   Cafes and restaurant will be allowed to open their outdoor terraces later this week, with at least 1.5 metres' (5 feet) distance kept between tables. Restrictions on travel between major cities may also be lifted from Wednesday.

Bulgarians are no longer required to wear face masks when outside, except in shops and on public transport, and are once again able to visit parks and mountains.   However, data from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control released Monday showed that the Balkan country was the only EU state still seeing rises in new coronavirus cases rise over the past fortnight.   All other European countries are already registering falls in the number of active cases.
Date: Fri, 6 Mar 2020 14:42:37 +0100 (MET)

Sofia, March 6, 2020 (AFP) - Bulgaria declared a nationwide influenza epidemic, closing schools and banning planned surgeries from Friday as the country -- so far spared any novel coronavirus infections -- grapples with a rise in flu cases.   Members of the national task force set up to address the new coronavirus warned hospitals were already full of flu patients, potentially jeopardising preparedness to respond to an expected virus arrival and spread.

Doctors in the EU's poorest member say the country of 7 million people has seen an unusual rapid spread of type B flu.   "Such rapid growth of type B flu has not happened in Bulgaria for the past ten years," said Todo Kantardzhiev, director of the national centre for contagious diseases.   Almost 5,000 people contracted type B flu in the last week of February, according to National Centre of Infectious and Parasitic Diseases data with babies and children aged under 14 most affected.

Schools will remain closed until March 11, the health ministry said, recommending universities cancel classes in order to contain the outbreak.   Local authorities were also advised to cancel sports or cultural events likely to draw large numbers of people.   Hospitals were meanwhile ordered to postpone all planned surgeries and ban patients' visits.

Pharmacies in the Balkan country have already run out of protective face masks and disinfectants as people rushed to stock themselves amid a coronavirus panic.   "The health system is already overburdened even before a first case of coronavirus has been detected," said health ministry official Angel Kunchev.
Date: Fri 23 Aug 2019
Source: Ekathimerini [edited]

Two cases of the West Nile Virus [WNV] have been confirmed in Bulgaria, with one of the patients said to have lived in Cyprus during a part of the summer.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Bulgaria has not issued an update as of [Thu 22 Aug 2019] morning, but according to Philenews, the health ministry in Bulgaria had issued a statement regarding a 48-year-old Bulgarian man who was diagnosed with WNV [infection]. The man, said to be from Pazardzhik in southern Bulgaria, is a construction worker who had been living for the last 2 months in Cyprus.

Upon his return to his country, according to Bulgarian officials, the worker started running a fever and generally feeling unwell. He was then immediately admitted to hospital with a known WNV infection.

Other towns were also on alert in Bulgaria, with an official statement saying clinics for infectious diseases in Belgrade and Nis have reported infected people. Most cases were associated with summer flu symptoms while the nervous system was affected in a number of other cases.

Based on additional media reports, there were other places besides Cyprus on the radar of Bulgarian officials regarding possible WNV infections.

According to State Medical Services of the Republic of Cyprus, 9 WNV cases have been confirmed in the south this year up until [16 Aug 2019]. All cases involved the neuroinvasive disease of the virus, with 2 patients remaining critical and 4 others being discharged from hospital.

Earlier this week, one confirmed WNV death was recorded in greater Nicosia with officials saying the patient was very senior.
Date: Mon 5 Aug 2019, 11:33 AM
Source: Novinite.com [edited]

Mosquitoes carry viral meningitis in Bulgaria. There are nearly 1/3 more cases of meningitis since the beginning of the year [2019] than the previous year [2018]. The state has allocated another BGN 2 million [USD 1 783 680] to deal with mosquitoes.

The disease is not typical for Bulgaria's latitudes, but has started to manifest itself with climate change, said Prof. Dr. Tatyana Chervenyakova of the Infectious Diseases Hospital in Bulgaria. The infection is transmitted through mosquitoes, and if there are complications, hospitalisation may be needed. However, the complications are only about 1% of the cases, said Prof. Chervenyakova.

Most of the cases pass the disease slightly - with fever and general malaise. It usually goes away after 2-3 days.

"It is very difficult to control the mosquitoes in these rainfalls. After every rainfall it must be sprayed. We shouldn't think that all mosquitoes are infected with the virus. The individual protection is the availability of repellents, the other is within the reach of the state " Dr. Tatiana Chervenyakova, said in an interview for Bulgaria ON ON AIR.
=======================
[This report deals with mosquito-borne virus infections, but does not indicate which one, nor is the number of cases to date given. There are 2 possible arboviruses involved as the etiological agents of these cases: West Nile virus or Usutu virus. Both have been found in Central Europe. As noted in a previous ProMED-mail post, "West Nile virus (WNV) and Usutu virus (USUV) are phylogenetically closely related mosquito-borne members of the family _Flaviviridae_, and belong to the Japanese encephalitis antigenic complex of the _Flavivirus genus_ (1,2). Both viruses have been isolated from numerous ornithophilic mosquito species, mainly _Culex_ spp. (1,2). In the enzootic cycle of WNV and USUV, avian species are also involved and serve as amplifying hosts. Mosquitoes facilitate virus transmission to humans and equids which then remain incidental hosts as they are not able to produce a level of viraemia sufficient for further virus transmission by mosquito bites (2)." (see  <https://www.eurosurveillance.org/content/10.2807/1560-7917.ES.2019.24.28.1900038>  for complete reference list, including those cited here).

ProMED-mail would appreciate a response indicating which virus or viruses are involved in these cases in Bulgaria. - ProMED Mod.TY]

[HealthMap/ProMED map available at:
Date: 30 Aug 2018
Source: Euro Surveillance [summarized, edited]

In June 2018, Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever (CCHF) was diagnosed in a Greek construction worker who returned home after becoming ill with fever and haemorrhagic symptoms in south-western Bulgaria. Here, we describe the case along with the epidemiological investigation and phylogenetic analysis.

On 30 May 2018, a Greek male in his late 40s returned to Greece after spending 23 days in a forested area in Blagoevgrad province, south-western Bulgaria, where he was working in bridge construction. Three days earlier (27 May 2018, day 1), while in Bulgaria, he developed fever, severe headache, myalgia (mainly in the lower extremities), malaise and loss of appetite; on 28 May 2018 he visited a local hospital and received symptomatic treatment as an outpatient. As his condition deteriorated (onset of photophobia and abdominal pain) he returned to his permanent residence in northern Greece. On 31 May 2018 (day 5), the patient was admitted to a local hospital.

He was transferred to the university hospital in Alexandroupolis the next day because he presented severe thrombocytopenia and leukopenia; elevated levels of liver enzymes, creatine phosphokinase (CPK) and lactate dehydrogenase (LDH); and prolonged activated partial thromboplastin time (aPTT) (Table). On day 6, his headache was resolved, but his fever (38.2 C [101 F]), malaise and myalgia were ongoing. The main laboratory findings were thrombocytopenia, prolonged aPTT (82 s) and increased level of aminotransferases. His laboratory parameters indicated rhabdomyolysis (CPK 1739 U/L) and slightly elevated urea and creatinine levels (Table). A bone marrow biopsy showed haemophagocytosis. ...

Based on the patient's clinical presentation, and as he was bitten by a tick in an area of Bulgaria where CCHF cases have been reported previously, CCHF was highly suspected. Typically, the incubation period of CCHF after a tick bite is short (1-3 days), but the exact date of the bite was unknown in this case. The treating physician contacted the National Reference Centre for Arboviruses and Haemorrhagic Fever Viruses in Thessaloniki, and the suspected case was immediately notified to the Hellenic Center for Disease Control and Prevention (HCDCP). ...

The HCDCP investigated the case immediately after the diagnosis of CCHF (through telephone interviews with a close family member and with the patient, after recovery, to confirm the dates) and his contacts while he was ill (household members, co-workers, roommates in Bulgaria and relatives who visited him in the hospitals). Close contacts were tested for CCHF and monitored for 14 days for any symptom development. The risk for further transmission was also assessed. The HCDCP promptly informed the Bulgarian health authorities about the case; they also informed the patient's Greek co-workers in Bulgaria about prevention and proper management of tick bites (informative material in Greek was sent to them) advising them to seek medical care in case they develop symptoms.

No other cases were reported among the patient's co-workers in Bulgaria, up to the end of July 2018. The regional and local public health authorities were also informed about the case, and they performed further contact investigation in Greece. No secondary cases were detected. The HCDCP raised awareness for CCHF among health professionals working in local health centres and hospitals in northern Greece, especially in areas with populations travelling to Bulgaria for occupational reasons.

The patient and his laboratory samples, apparel, waste and cleaning procedures were managed in accordance with the national guidelines for viral haemorrhagic fevers (available in Greek from HCDCP website: <http://www.keelpno.gr/>). In particular, upon the suspicion of CCHF (day 8), the patient was immediately isolated, and strict barrier precautions were utilised (waterproof gowns, gloves, FFP3 respiratory masks, goggles), and personal protective equipment was used by healthcare workers (HCWs) and visitors; however, visitors were discouraged from entering the isolation room. The HCDCP sent guidelines for contact tracing and active surveillance of symptoms in HCWs possibly exposed to CCHFV. Patients who were hospitalised in the same room with the patient before the suspicion of CCHF (2 patients in the 1st hospital (days 5-6), and 3 patients in the 2nd hospital (days 6-8)), were also monitored for symptoms for 14 days after their last contact with the patient. No secondary cases were observed. ...

Discussion
---------
CCHF was 1st recognised in Bulgaria in 1952; since then, several cases have been reported. Genetic characterisation of the Bulgarian strains showed that they cluster into the clade Europe 1. Our patient was infected in an area that was considered at low risk for CCHF outbreaks up to 2008, when a cluster of cases was observed in the region. Although the seroprevalence in the human population in Blagoevgrad province is low (1 percent), a seroprevalence of 41.9 percent in livestock was reported recently. Since CCHFV is transmitted mainly by bites of infected Ixodid ticks, persons living in rural areas are at increased risk for acquiring the infection. This was the reason that information about preventive measures was sent to our patient's Greek co-workers in Bulgaria, and all related public health authorities were informed about the case.

Regarding Greece, no other imported cases have been reported so far, and the only autochthonous CCHF case was observed in 2008. A review of travel-associated CCHF cases published during 1960-2016 reported 21 cases; 2 imported cases have been reported within Europe: Bulgaria to Germany in 2001 and Bulgaria to the United Kingdom in 2014.

Due to the high pathogenicity of CCHFV, the absence of a specific drug treatment or vaccine, and the risk of person-to-person transmission, rapid diagnosis is crucial to ensure that appropriate infection control measures (e.g. isolation of patient and barrier precautions) can be implemented in a timely manner. A detailed medical history of the patient, including travel history and possible risk factors, is important for the timely diagnosis of the disease. In our case, information regarding the tick bite was not provided immediately, and this, in combination with the non-specific initial symptoms, meant that CCHF was 1st suspected on day 8 of illness. Despite this delay, the patient fully recovered, and no secondary cases of CCHF have been reported. Since the northern part of Greece is close to CCHF-endemic countries, HCWs in this region should be made aware of CCHF, including the provision of training to better help them address questions from patients about travel history (to identify potential risk of exposure). Physicians should include CCHF in the differential diagnosis for patients with haemorrhagic syndromes, especially if patients report a tick bite, outdoor activities, or occupation in rural areas and recent travel to an endemic area.
=======================
[The above report provides an excellent example of CCHF transmission in a case with no history of conventional professional contact with infected cattle, such as cattle rearing or butchering. History of travel to a location that has reported human cases, presence of the vector, and the clinical picture should raise suspicions in health care providers, with appropriate diagnostic tests conducted as soon as possible. - ProMED Mod.UBA]

[HealthMap/ProMED maps available at:
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World Travel News Headlines

Date: Tue, 19 May 2020 16:23:23 +0200 (METDST)

Dublin, May 19, 2020 (AFP) - This year's Dublin marathon scheduled for October 25 was cancelled on Tuesday despite Ireland's move to lift coronavirus lockdown measures, indicating potential long-term disruption caused by the outbreak.   Ireland plans to have fully lifted restrictions well before October, in a staggered process that began on Monday.   But organisers indicated the race -- which had 22,500 entrants last year -- would still not go ahead because of safety fears.   "We made the difficult decision in the best interest of the health and well-being of all those involved in making our events such a success from runners, supporters, volunteers, sponsors, to suppliers," said race director Jim Aughney.   "We explored many alternatives for running the events safely but ultimately none were viable."    Ireland's five-stage "roadmap" to reopen the nation is due to be completed in August, when the current ban on mass gatherings of more than 5,000 people is set to expire.   The cancellation suggests coronavirus fallout may last longer than suggested by official plans and could hit similar events.

The London Marathon, which attracts tens of thousands of runners, has been postponed until October 4.    "We need to be aware that we will continue to be in the acute emergency phase of this crisis for some time with further waves an ever present danger," the health department Secretary-General Jim Breslin told a special parliamentary committee on the crisis.   "This is not a one, a two or even a three-day storm, after which we move to a recovery phase. The acute phase of this crisis will definitely be measured in months and most probably in years."   Ireland has suffered 1,547 deaths from COVID-19, according to the department of health.   On Monday the number of daily deaths had fallen from a peak of 77 to just four.   "We have suppressed the virus and limited its impact on public health," said chief medical officer Tony Holohan on Monday.   "We need to sustain this in the weeks and phases ahead."
Date: Mon, 18 May 2020 18:54:14 +0200 (METDST)

Paris, May 18, 2020 (AFP) - Air France said Monday it hoped to double the number of cities it serves, including over 40 European destinations, by the end of June as nations begin to lift coronavirus travel restrictions.   "Between now and the end of June and subject to travel restrictions being lifted, Air France plans to gradually resume its flights,"  the airline said.   Like other airlines, Air France grounded most of its planes as governments imposed stay-at-home orders and demand for travel evaporated. 

Air France said it was currently operating between three and five percent of its usual schedule and serving 43 destinations for essential passenger traffic as well as cargo.   The airline, which received a 7-billion-euro rescue package from the French government, listed more than 90 destinations it hopes to serve by the end of June.   That would be equivalent to 15 percent of its normal schedule, and use 75 of its fleet of 224 aircraft.
Date: Mon, 18 May 2020 18:20:03 +0200 (METDST)

Abuja, May 18, 2020 (AFP) - Nigeria's government on Monday extended a coronavirus lockdown on the northern region of Kano after it became a hotspot for new infections.    The head of the country's coronavirus taskforce, Boss Mustapha, said the lockdown on the economic hub -- which includes Nigeria's second biggest city -- would be prolonged for two weeks.    The authorities will also start to impose "precision" lockdowns in any other areas that report a "rapidly increasing number of cases, when the need arises", he said.    The outbreak in Kano has become a major cause of concern after medics and residents last month began reporting a spike in deaths.

Regional officials at first put the "unexplained" fatalities down to other ailments, but government investigators later said coronavirus was suspected in most cases.    Neighbouring states to Kano have also begun reporting suspicious surges in death tolls that authorities are scrambling to investigate.    Nigeria has confirmed 5,959 infections and 182 deaths from the novel coronavirus across the country.    Kano is the second hardest hit region with 825 confirmed cases and 36 fatalities.   The region has already been under lockdown for a month but enforcement has been lax and measures have been eased sporadically for people to buy food during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Testing has been a key problem across Nigeria and only 35,345 samples have so far been screened in Africa's most populous nation of 200 million people.    Mustapha insisted there had been a slowdown in the transmission rate of the virus, "elongating the doubling time" from seven to 11 days.    But he announced that measures would remain in place limiting businesses and restricting crowds across the rest of the country despite earlier plans to gradually roll them back.     "Nigeria is not yet ready for full opening of the economy and tough decisions have to be taken for the good of the greater majority," he said.   The government has also imposed a night-time curfew and made mask wearing mandatory in all regions.     Mustapha complained that "non-compliance was rampant" with social distancing measures.     "The fight against COVID-19 is long-term as the virus is not likely to go away very soon," he said.
Date: Mon, 18 May 2020 17:21:58 +0200 (METDST)

Stockholm, May 18, 2020 (AFP) - Sweden, whose softer approach to the new coronavirus pandemic has garnered worldwide attention, recorded its deadliest month in almost three decades in April, according to statistics released on Monday.   Sweden has stopped short of introducing the restrictive lockdowns seen elsewhere in Europe, instead opting for an approach based on the "principle of responsibility".

The Scandinavian country has kept schools open for children under the age of 16, along with cafes, bars, restaurants and businesses, and urged people to respect social distancing guidelines.   A total of 10,458 deaths were recorded in the country of 10.3 million inhabitants in April, Statistics Sweden said.   "We have to go back to December 1993 to find more dead during a single month," Tomas Johansson, population statistician at Statistics Sweden, said in a statement.

In total, 97,008 deaths were recorded in Sweden during the whole of 1993, which in turn was the deadliest year since 1918, when the Spanish flu pandemic ravaged the country.   Johansson told AFP there was no official breakdown explaining the high death toll in December 1993 but said there was a flu epidemic at the time.   According to preliminary data, the number of deaths has been on the decline since the end of April, including in Stockholm -- the epicentre of the Swedish epidemic -- where the highest number of deaths were recorded in early April.

The Swedish approach to the novel coronavisrus has come under criticism both at home and abroad, particularly as the number of deaths has far exceeded those in neighbouring Nordic countries, which have all imposed more restrictive containment measures.   On Monday, Sweden reported a total of 30,377 confirmed cased of the new coronavirus and 3,698 deaths.
Date: Mon, 18 May 2020 16:52:05 +0200 (METDST)

Helsinki, May 18, 2020 (AFP) - Finland's national airline will restart routes between Europe and Asia in July once countries begin to lift coronavirus restrictions on travel, the company announced on Monday.   Beijing and Shanghai will be the first long-haul destinations to reopen, alongside Hong Kong, Seoul, Singapore, Bangkok and three Japanese routes, Finnair said in a statement.

Flights to Delhi and New York will follow in August.    The move makes Finnair one of the first European carriers to restart intercontinental flights, after the Lufthansa Group announced on Friday it would resume 19 long-haul routes by early June.   "We expect aviation to recover gradually, starting in July," Finnair chief commercial officer Ole Orver said in a statement, adding that the company intends to bring its operations back to one-third of normal capacity.

Finnair cut 90 percent of its flights on April 1 and issued a profit warning as coronavirus restrictions brought international passenger travel almost to a standstill.     Facemasks will be mandatory on all Finnair flights "until at least the end of August," Finnair spokeswoman Paivyt Tallqvist told AFP.     "We have also taken a number of steps to avoid unnecessary movement on board," Tallqvist said, including having passengers disembark in smaller groups, and limiting capacity of shuttle bus transport between aircraft and the terminal to 50 percent.

Flights along the so-called "shorter northern route" between Helsinki and Asia, bypassing the Middle East, have been a key part of the Finnish carrier's growth strategy in recent years, with passenger numbers on its Asian routes doubling between 2010 and 2018.    On Monday, Finnair also announced it would restart 26 European routes in July, including to Brussels, Moscow, Prague and Paris.    Destinations including Rome, Madrid and Warsaw would be added in August, the firm said.     Finnair said it would open further routes on a monthly basis depending on demand and how travel restrictions change over the summer.
Date: Mon, 18 May 2020 10:28:18 +0200 (METDST)

Dublin, May 18, 2020 (AFP) - Ireland launched the first tentative step in its plan to lift coronavirus lockdown on Monday, with staff returning to outdoor workplaces as some shops resumed trade and sports facilities unlocked their doors.   The modest tweaks to the restrictions in place since 28 March start a staggered process set to stretch until August.

"I'm both pleased and nervous," health minister Simon Harris told state broadcaster RTE.    "I'm pleased that we've gotten to this point because of the incredible efforts of the Irish people in suppressing this virus."   "I'm nervous because the virus hasn't gone away, there still isn't a vaccine, there's still people in our country getting very sick, and there's still people dying every day."

Shops such as garden centres, hardware stores and farmers markets were permitted to open their doors whilst outdoor staff such as builders and gardeners returned to workplaces.   Football pitches, tennis courts and golf courses were also allowed to resume business whilst maintaining strict social distancing.

Meanwhile citizens were permitted to meet in small gatherings outside of people from different households.   But Harris urged caution as the republic took its first step in trying "to live successfully and safely alongside the virus".   "Just because somewhere is open doesn't mean we need to go," he said.   There have been 1,543 deaths from COVID-19 in Ireland according to the department for health.

Reported daily deaths peaked at 77 on 20 April, but by Sunday the figure had fallen to just 10.   As with other nations officials remain fearful a second wave of infections could inundate the healthcare system.   But Prime minister Leo Varadkar confirmed on Friday that Ireland would press ahead to the first of its five step plan to reopen the nation.   "This gives us reason to hope, but it is not a cause for celebration.  We have a long way to go yet," Varadkar said in a statement.

The fallout of the lockdown changes will be monitored for three weeks before the government decides whether to move to the next stage in the "roadmap" to reopening.   "Coronavirus is an inferno that is raging around the world", said Varadkar.   "In Ireland it is now a fire in retreat but it's not defeated -- we must extinguish every spark."
Date: Sun, 17 May 2020 22:46:20 +0200 (METDST)
By Román ORTEGA, Iván DUARTE y Germán CAMPOS

Puebla, Mexico, May 17, 2020 (AFP) - Scores of Mexicans are dying from drinking adulterated liquor, a consequence of the shortage of mainstream alcoholic beverages during the coronavirus pandemic, authorities say.   The first of at least 121 deaths in recent weeks occurred at the end of April in the western state of Jalisco, almost exactly a month after the government declared a health emergency over the spread of COVID-19.   Much of Mexico has run out of beer after factories producing liquor and beer were shut down, along with other non-essential firms.

Beer stocks were practically depleted within a month, and in some areas the prices of what was left doubled, according to industry sources.    Many of the 53 deaths in central Puebla province have been linked to a wake where people drank moonshine containing methanol -- a wood alcohol that in non-lethal doses can cause blindness and liver damage.    Twenty-three people died in the hours following the gathering in the town of Chiconcuautla, according to authorities.   The town's mayor said the popular "refino" drink, made from sugarcane, had been adulterated.

German Hernandez said his father died after being poisoned by drink known locally as "tejon" -- a blend of brandy with tejocote fruit (a type of hawthorn), in the Puebla town of Cacaloxuchitl.   "They sell it in the stores, and you can buy it and take it out. My father began trembling and feeling weak. He told us he felt bad, and we took him to the hospital," Hernandez told AFP.   "This has never happened before."    Deaths have also been recorded in the central state of Morelos and Yucatan and Veracruz in the east.

- Mafia trade -
Gangs specializing in bootleg booze are trying to take advantage of the lack of alternative alcohol sources during the shutdown.    "They usually have very well-structured mafias, and some escape the surveillance of the authorities," Ricardo Cardenas of the Federal Commission for Protection against Sanitary Risks told AFP.   "We presume that, as a result of this shortage and demand being very high, some people are offering or trying to sell methanol instead of ethyl alcohol," said Denis de Santiago, head of Sanitary Risks in Jalisco.

Methanol is used in fuel, solvents and antifreeze.   The country's largest beer producers, Grupo Modelo -- which makes the popular Corona beer -- and Heineken, which makes Sol, halted production in early April.   Alcohol sales have been banned in some states, including Yucatan. In others, alcoholic beverages can only be purchased at certain times.   Some drinks companies have switched production to antibacterial gel that they are donating to the federal government and health workers.

- 'Who would have thought?' -
In Yucatan, where 38 people have died so far, victims unknowingly drank methanol in their usual "pajaretes" -- a common cocktail that includes milk, coffee, vanilla and brand-name sugarcane alcohol.   Humberto Macias, 36, said he saw three of his relatives die within days of each other after drinking a pajarete cocktail, made using a trusted brand of alcohol.   "We had always drunk it, including myself, many people. Who would have thought it was like this?" Macias said.

In the Yucatan peninsula town of Acanceh, seven people have died from alcohol poisoning.   "It's the first time I've heard of a case like this. I don't remember anything similar," the town's mayor Felipe Medina told AFP.   In Veracruz, Morelos and Yucatan, investigators are still trying to determine what drinks the victims consumed.
Date: Sun, 17 May 2020 19:55:15 +0200 (METDST)
By Gregory WALTON

Doha, May 17, 2020 (AFP) - Qatar on Sunday began enforcing the world's toughest penalties of up to three years' in prison for failing to wear masks in public, in a country with one of the highest coronavirus infection rates.   More than 32,000 people have tested positive for COVID-19 in the tiny Gulf country -- 1.2 percent of the 2.75 million population -- although just 15 people have died.   Only the micro-states of San Marino and the Vatican have had higher per-capita infection rates, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.   Violators of Qatar's new rules will face up to hree years in jail and fines of as much as $55,000.

Drivers alone in their vehicles are exempt from the requirement, but police erected checkpoints across the capital Doha on Sunday evening to check compliance by motorists.   Most customers gathered outside money lenders on Banks Street wore masks, while others produced a face covering when asked.   "From today it's very strict," said Majeed, a taxi driver waiting for business in the busy pedestrian area, who wore a black mask.   Heloisa, an expat resident, saw the steep penalties as "a bit of a scare tactic".   Wearing a mask is currently mandatory in around 50 countries, although scientists are divided on their effectiveness.

Authorities in Chad have made it an offence to be unmasked in public, on pain of 15 days in prison. In Morocco, similar rules can see violators jailed for three months and fined up to 1,300 dirhams ($130).   Qatari authorities have warned that gatherings during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan may have increased infections.   Abdullatif al-Khal, co-chair of Qatar's National Pandemic Preparedness Committee, said Thursday that there was "a huge risk in gatherings of families" for Ramadan meals.   "(They) led to a significant increase in the number of infections among Qataris," he said.   Neighbouring Saudi Arabia will enforce a round-the-clock nationwide curfew during the five-day Eid al-Fitr holiday later this month to fight the coronavirus.

- Labourers at risk -
Mosques, along with schools, malls, and restaurants remain closed in Qatar to prevent the disease's spread.   But construction sites remain open as Qatar prepares to host the 2022 World Cup, although foremen and government inspectors are attempting to enforce social distancing rules.    Officials have said workers at three stadiums have tested positive for the highly contagious respiratory virus. Masks have been compulsory for construction workers since April 26.   A 12-strong team of masked labourers kept their distance from one another as they worked under baking sun on a road project in Doha's blue-collar Msheireb district on Sunday.

Tens of thousands of migrant workers were quarantined in Doha's gritty Industrial Area after a number of infections were confirmed there in mid-March, but authorities have begun to ease restrictions.   Khal said that most new cases were among migrant workers, although there has been a jump in infections among Qataris. He said the country had not yet reached the peak of its contagion.   Rights groups have warned that Gulf labourers' cramped living conditions, communal food preparation areas and shared bathrooms could undermine social distancing efforts and speed up the spread of the virus.
Date: Sun, 17 May 2020 13:43:50 +0200 (METDST)

Tehran, May 17, 2020 (AFP) - Iran said Friday it had recorded nearly 7,000 deaths from the novel coronavirus, warning of infection clusters in new regions after it partially eased lockdown measures.   Health ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour said the COVID-19 illness had claimed a further 51 lives over 24 hours into Sunday.   The ministry raised the overall death toll to 6,988 since Iran announced its first fatalities in the Shiite pilgrimage city of Qom in February.   Jahanpour warned that cases were rising "in the province of Lorestan, and to some extent in Kermanshah, Sistan and Baluchistan".   "Khuzestan province is still in a critical situation," he added.

The southwestern province has become Iran's new coronavirus focal point, with the most critical "red" ranking on the country's colour-coded risk scale.   It is the only region so far where authorities have reimposed business lockdowns after a country-wide relaxation in April.   Iran stopped publishing provincial figures for the coronavirus last month, but the health ministry's latest report said there is a "rising trend or the beginning of a peak" in eight provinces, including Khuzestan.   The country on Friday reported its highest number of new infections in more than a month.   A virus taskforce official said Sunday that the increase was due to a surge in testing, not just of COVID-19 patients with severe symptoms.

Early in the outbreak "our focus was on severe cases that had to be hospitalised, but as we started to manage the disease we looked at those infected and not hospitalised," said Ali Akbar Haghdoost, head of the taskforce's epidemiology committee.   "It is possible that the reported number of infections have gone up, but this in no way means more have been infected with COVID-19," he told ISNA news agency.   According to Jahanpour, 1,806 new cases had been confirmed across Iran in the past day, bringing the total to 120,198.   Over 1,460 of the new cases were "outpatients, including those who had been in close contact with the infected," he said.

The ministry said 94,464 people hospitalised with the virus have recovered and been discharged.   Experts both at home and abroad have voiced scepticism about Iran's official figures, saying the real toll could be much higher.   Iran also cancelled rallies held annually in solidarity with the Palestinians, set for Friday next week.    President Hassan Rouhani had said Saturday that the Qods (Jerusalem) Day parades would go ahead with some measures against the virus.    But organisers said Sunday the event could not be held "decently" and would be scrapped apart from a televised speech by the supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Date: Sun, 17 May 2020 13:31:10 +0200 (METDST)

Antananarivo, May 17, 2020 (AFP) - Madagascar on Sunday reported the first death of a patient suffering from novel coronavirus nearly two months after it was first detected in the country, official statistics showed.   The Indian ocean island which has reported 304 cases has hit the headlines over a home-grown herbal concoction that President Andry Rajoelina claims can cure people infected with the virus.

Several African countries have ordered or expressed interest in the purported remedy, which is known as Covid-Organics.   The tonic drink is derived from artemisia -- a plant with proven efficacy in malaria treatment -- and other indigenous herbs.   But the World Health Organization has warned against "adopting a product that has not been taken through tests to see its efficacy".